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News from the Earth Sciences


Oxygen Levels were Key to Early Animal Evolution.

A recently graduated doctoral student from our department has just published strong evidence that oxygen levels were key to early animal evolution. Dr Rosalie Tostevin (now at Oxford University) was supervised by Professor Graham Shields-Zhou in a project studying some of the world’s oldest animal-based reef ecosystems in Namibia. Over the course of her PhD, she looked at various chemical tracers of oxygen, before settling on a unique combination of iron speciation, rare earth elements and sulphur isotopes. The study has been widely reported as the first one that is able to distinguish between bodies of water with low and high levels of oxygen (not simply distinguishing oxic from anoxic waters).  Rosalie shows in her work, published in Nature Communications, that poorly oxygenated waters did not support the complex life that evolved immediately prior to the Cambrian Period, suggesting the presence of oxygen was a key factor in their appearance. More...

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Dr. Wendy Kirk 


Mars In The Classroom

Mars in the Classroom provides an exciting program of hands-on and thought-provoking science activities for children aged 13 to 16. 

"Mars is there, waiting to be reached."

Mars, the`red planet', shines with almost a blood red colour in the night sky

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Mars In The Classroom

  • The project is themed around the students planning their own manned mission to Mars, and comprises a series of modules to be carried out in small groups.
  • The experiments within each module of Mars in the Classroom can be used either as stand-alone projects or in combination with any or all of the other modules provided. In this way, the educator has complete control over the duration and level of the program undertaken.
  • The aim of the project is to provide a stimulating program that can compliment the National Curriculum, introducing students (and educators!) to the excitement of planetary science.